Protecting cultural and natural diversity to feed the planet

Organised as part of ‘Venice to EXPO 2015’, Behind Food Sustainability asks visitors to think about the important role of cultural and natural heritage and community participation in achieving food sustainability, in line with the EXPO 2015 theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. The exhibition will run until 31 October at Palazzo Zorzi, premises of the UNESCO Venice Office.

At least one in nine people worldwide goes to bed without a meal. Food is life, it should be a fundamental right, a basic need to be met if we wish to build more equitable and secure societies. In order to achieve this, we must learn to use cultural and natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Territories and communities play a key part in the sustainable production and consumption of food. Theirs is a vital and fragile relationship that relies on the passing-down of traditional knowledge and on the implementation of innovative policies promoting the active participation of communities in the management of their heritage and supporting research into sustainable methods.

Many Venetians and tourists have already visited the exhibition, consisting of panels, multimedia installations and video material. It is built around five main themes: Managing Water; Looking after the Land; Balancing the Food Economy; Protecting diversity; Fostering participation. Each theme is illustrated through examples from UNESCO’s networks – World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and Intangible Cultural Heritage elements – which provide inspiration for a sustainable future.

UNESCO’s networks of cultural and natural sites and intangible cultural heritage elements celebrate natural and cultural diversity in all its forms, as a crucial factor for sustainable development. The exhibition includes highly evocative examples from around the world: from Tonlé Sap’s floating villages in Cambodia to the traditional Aflaj irrigation systems in Oman and in other arid landscapes. They bring us face to face with pioneering agricultural practices and extraordinary examples of people adapting to hostile landscapes, as is the case in China’s Honghe Hani rice terraces. They introduce us to “food communities” in every continent, whose livelihoods are based on the sustainable use of cultural and natural heritage linked to their territory; communities who safeguard their environment, identity and social cohesion by passing down traditional practices linked to food.

With the world's population growing at an ever faster rate, feeding the planet is one of the greatest and most complex challenges facing humankind. Viewed together, these examples of man’s relationship with nature hold the key to addressing present and future sustainability challenges, relying on traditional knowledge, innovation and technology to balance the availability and consumption of resources.

Copies of the exhibition will also be displayed in the Sila, Circeo, Appenino Tosco-Emiliano and Po Delta Biosphere Reserves, and in the Dolomites and Padua Botanical Garden World Heritage sites. An international itinerary is set to follow the end of EXPO 2015. The exhibition content is also available on the UNESCO Venice Office website.


As well as contributing to the United Nations’ participation in Milan, “The Zero Hunger Challenge – United for a Sustainable World”, UNESCO will take part in the Venice to EXPO 2015 initiative with a broad programme of events in and around Venice and in UNESCO sites and territories throughout Italy.

UNESCO’s contribution to EXPO 2015 was made possible by the generous support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy).